Low-Cost Drug For Indian Diabetic Patients: Merck
If you are a diabetic, there is some good news for you, a multinational pharmaceutical company has introduced a new low-cost, hassle-free patent protected drug to check the disease.
"The drug mainly for type II diabetic patients is once a day pill, meal independent with no dosage adjustments and can be prescribed by even doctors at primary health centres as it does not have major side effects like hypoglycemia (lower glucose level than normal) and weight gain," Dr Sethu Reddy, Regional Director, scientific affairs, Merck & Co Inc US told media in Mumbai during a workshop on Saturday.
"A true drug for the mass, the new molecule called Sitagliptin provides a novel mechanism of working and therefore more promising of Indian patients," eminent diabetologist Dr C V Mohan of Madras Diabetes Research foundation said.
Sitagliptin, the first of a new class of drugs known as DPP-4 (dipeptidyl peptidase-4) inhibitors sold under the name 'Januvia' is a real breakthrough, Mohan said, adding "this molecule enhances the body's own ability to lower blood sugar (glucose) when it is elevated."
Dr Sashang Joshi, an endocrinologist with Lilavati hospital in Mumbai said, "This new drug modifies the gut (intestine) peptide 'incretin' and makes the pancreas smarter to stimulate insulin without straining itself."
The mechanism of action of DPP-4 inhibitors is distinct from that of any currently available class of glucose lowering agents, Mohan said. Now it is available in India too and is the first cheap patented drug, he said.
Indians are more prone to diabetes than any other race because of the presence of 'thrifty gene syndrome'.
This genetic disorder hibernates in Indian race and due to sedentary lifestyle, bad food habits and improper sleep it gets activated and cause diabetes, experts said.
The drug which was introduced by Merck MSD India recently has been used by American diabetic patients for the last two years and is sold at USD five per pill while in India it is being sold at USD one per pill which comes to roughly Rs 300 per week, Reddy said.
Asked why it is relevant to India, Joshi said, the drug is for primary care as it is once a day, meal independent and requires no supervision by the specialist.
"For 40.9 million diabetic patients in the country, there are only 2,000 to 3,000 doctors and if such a novel drug is available, that too patented at a low cost and hassle- free, which can be prescribed even by primary health doctor or a general practitioner, it will be a huge benefit to Indian patients," he said.
On whether it can be taken along with other diabetic drugs, Reddy said it could be either used for monotherapy or can be combined with one or two drugs as recommended.
The drug already has four million prescriptions worldwide including countries in Latin America, US, Korea and China and in India alone nearly a lakh prescriptions are made since its introduction in April this year and that too mostly in Chennai, Mohan said.
Diabetes if not controlled leads to several complications like renal disorder which can lead to kidney failure and need dialysis, blood vessel damage in the eyes leading to blindness, nerve damage in the feet can lead to amputation and heart disease can lead to death, experts said, adding heart disease is, in fact, the number one cause of death in people with diabetes.
Diabetes is projected to increase to 69.9 million by 2025. In India there are an estimated four crore diabetics. Out of these only 1.5 crore are aware of their situation and are under some form of treatment. Out of those under treatment, only 20 percent are able to get control on their sugar. This is despite 686 brands of medicines to treat diabetes in India.
Joshi said it is unfortunate that Indian patients link diabetes cure to medicines and not lifestyle modification including proper diet, exercise and sleep.
Most of the drugs available in the market only push body to secrete more insulin, leading to faster degeneration of the body's own mechanism to control sugar.
"Therefore, we in Chennai have a huge programme for prevention of diabetes especially among younger generation who are leading a fast and a hectic life style," Mohan said.
Reddy said Merck is also doing post-marketing surveillance and a clinical study of the drug for benefit of heart patients.
The drug is even good for heart patients, especially in India.
Indians have thin, small arteries and those who are prone to coronary disease, this could be an attractive molecule, Joshi said.